Round Table Discussion with President Lobsang Sangay

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Tibet's Continued Journey for Autonomy

The South Asia Department at Hudson Institute hosted Tibetan President in Exile Lobsang Sangay for a round-table discussion on a wide variety of topics. Discussion included the warning the Tibetan experience in the 1940s provides to other countries trying to determine the value of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative investment, Tibet’s importance to the world, and his goal to seek Tibetan autonomy within the Chinese system.

As more and more countries are becoming aware of the potential risks of accepting massive Chinese investment, President Sangay believes the Tibetan experience in the 1940s provides a clear blueprint of the possible dangers. The promises of one road connecting Tibet and China and increased development investments quickly turned into one hundred roads and a military occupation that continues to today.

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Also mentioned was the geostrategic and global importance of the Tibetan plateau. The water from glaciers in Tibet flows into ten major rivers in Asia, including the Yangtze and Indus, and provide water to a fifth of the world’s population. With the Chinese government facing potentially massive water shortages, there is the possibility that they would seek to divert some of the water flow, causing massive political and security crises. In addition, as global temperatures rise, glaciers and permafrost in Tibet will permanently melt, causing devastating effects across the region.

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Finally, chief among the topics discussed was President Sangay’s desire to see an autonomous Tibet within the Chinese system. As similar accommodations have been made for Hong Kong and Macao, he believes this “Middle Path” to be the best way forward for both sides.